Can Russia Really Ramp Up Missile Production?

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal Loaded on a MiG-31K. Image – Wikimedia/

Russia says it is increasing monthly missile production rates.  The war in Ukraine is consuming missiles far faster than Moscow had anticipated.  Even the large pre-war Russian inventory of tactical strike and theater ballistic missiles cannot meet the demands of this conflict.

Russia needs these missiles to support its offensive operations in Ukraine.  Officials in Moscow said Russia is doubling production of precision-guided munitions (PGMs), according to a story in Newsweek.  Tactical Missiles Corporation (TMC) is a leading supplier of these systems.  Yet achieving an increase in PGM production might come at the expense of other missile programs.

Moscow may try to run its existing missile production lines with additional shifts.  To do this, companies need skilled workers (there is already a shortage).  Russia could meet this need by moving people off lower-priority production programs and onto others.  Of course, these workers will require some retraining.  Establishing all-new production lines for PGMs is a longer-term project that cannot produce quick results.

Even if Moscow chooses this path, it still faces a supply problem.  Turns out, Russian weapons include a far greater proportion of foreign-made components than once thought.  Western sanctions are restricting the supply.  So, Moscow must prioritize.

Some Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) lines are shutting down (or being significantly scaled back) to free up key components.  This prioritization could result in a boost in monthly tactical strike and theater ballistic missile production, but it won’t last.   Not too far in the future, the monthly production rate will start to drop as the supply of critical parts begins to run out.

Other parts of the Russian defense industry are already feeling the squeeze.  The Russian Army is losing tanks in Ukraine at a very high rate.  Before the war, there were two active tank production lines in Russia.  Recently, one shut down due to a lack of critical components.

How long Russia can sustain a higher missile production rate is anyone’s guess, but it is definitely not indefinitely.

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